|Workers receive their hard earned wage.
For many workers engaged at the Thorthormi mitigation project in Thanza, Lunana, work is as much an opportunity, as it is for Bhutanese studying abroad who do odd jobs for a few dollars more.
Notwithstanding the hardships involved in journeying to the project site and the harsh working conditions, a majority of the workers intend to return to work next year, lured by the Nu 500 (S$14.75) a day salary.
Tshering from Thimphu likes to take on odd jobs to scratch out some extra money.
The 26-year old school dropout worked in one of the many auto workshops as a helper in Thimphu, before switching jobs as a parking fee collector along Changlam area.
He left that job last June when he learnt that the geology and mines department was mobilising people to work on the Thorthormi lake mitigation project.
Signing up for a project that paid workers Nu 500 a day, four times that of the average national daily wage, Tshering said, was the most profitable by far.
He earned close to Nu 30,000 during his three months of mitigation work between July and September.
The amount was enough to whet Tshering's appetite to earn more, and so he intends to return next year to work for the project, if there is another phase.
"I'll sign up again for the project next year," he said. "For the time being, I'll start collecting parking fees once I reach Thimphu."
A teetotaler, with a strong aversion for any sort of tobacco product, 22-year old Passa Dorji from Lobesa, Punakha said, without anything to spend on, he saved Nu 46,000 within three months of working with the project.
"That's an increase from Nu 38,000 I saved last year," he said, adding that he wished to save enough money to buy a power tiller, which he then intends to hire out to villagers as a business.
"A second-hand machine costs between Nu 70,000 and Nu 80,000," he said. "Another Nu 40,000 and I'll have enough to set aside as saving."
Hemraj Guring from Chisopani village in Samtse said that, although he earned Nu 38,000 this year, it was not enough to build a house of his own on a plot from the two-acre land, which his parents split between the three children in their family.
"The moment I heard the project was going to pay Nu 500 a day, I left field work midway, packed my stuff and hopped onto a Phuentsholing-bound bus the very next day," he said. "I'm returning next year too, for I need to earn more to build the house."
However, a few workers weren't keen on returning to work for the project again.
Ngagay, 26 from Samdrupjongkhar, who left school after class VII, said that, although the journey to the project was long and tiring, he had to look for ways to make big money and quick.
With a family of his own, continuing to live in a house with seven other siblings, Ngagay said, was becoming awkward.
"I've a plot of land my parents gave me on which I wish to build a small house of our own," he said.
Ngagay said the money was not worth the trouble of first hitching a ride on a bus from one end in the east to the other in the west, which culminated in a nine-day hike up to Lunana.
"The journey and the work under harsh weather is a threat to life," he said. "I'd rather look for some small work in Samdrupjongkhar."
27-year-old Lhamu from Wangduephodrang, one of the 18 women workers at the camp, said she decided to stay back and work for the project after she finished picking cordyceps at Lhedi with her brother, who had settled there.
Her husband Phub Tshering, 26, also joined her at Thanza, leaving their three-year-old son with Lhamu's sister in Wangduephodrang.
The daily Nu 500 salary, Lhamu said, was not worth the three months separation from their son.
Lhamu and her husband saved close to Nu 60,000 from the project, excluding the money she was eager to collect from her brother in Lhedi who took the cordyceps she collected for sale.
Her husband Phurba Tshering said they intended to save some of the money from their savings for their son's education, while the rest would be added to their existing savings to build a house in their village in Wangdue.
They said they were done working for the project.
Apart from the bitter cold workers were exposed to, Lhamu said, the work was fairly easy for women, who only had to carry stones or pass them in chains to men planted in the water making channels.
"But the thought of walking up to Lunana is a nightmare," she said.